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Useful Temperate Plants

Erythrina herbacea

L.

Fabaceae

+ Synonyms

Erythrina arborea Small

Common Name: Cardinal Spear

Erythrina herbacea
Mature seeds emerging from the seedpod
Photograph by: Eleanor
Creative Commons License
Erythrina herbacea Erythrina herbacea Erythrina herbacea Erythrina herbacea Erythrina herbacea

General Information

Erythrina herbacea is very variable in habit according to the environment in which it grows. A small deciduous tree when growing in the warm southerly parts of its range, it becomes shrubby or even herbaceous towards the limits of its cooler northerly range[
229
Title
The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
Publication
 
Author
Elias. T.
Publisher
Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
Year
1980
ISBN
0442238622
Description
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
].
The plant is gathered from the wild for local use for food, medicine and beads. It is said to be cultivated for medicinal use in Cuba[
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
].

Known Hazards

All Erythrina species contain greater or lesser amounts of toxic alkaloids - these can be found in all parts of the plant but are usually most concentrated in the seeds. Concentrations vary from species to species, in some it is low enough that the plant is safely used as a food. In many, the alkaloids are utilized for their medicinal effects. We have no specific information on the concentration of the alkaloids in this species, but care should be exercised in any use of the plant that involves ingestion. These alkaloids have a curare-like action (obtained from Strychnos species) and can cause paralysis and even death by respiratory failure[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
,
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Botanical References

200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
274
Title
Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas
Publication
 
Author
Diggs, Jnr. G.M.; Lipscomb. B. L. & O'Kennon. R. J
Website
http://artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/bio/gdiggs/NCTXpdf.htm
Publisher
Botanical Research Institute, Texas.
Year
1999
ISBN
1-889878-01-4
Description
An excellent flora, which is also available on-line.

Range

South-eastern N. America - North Carolina to Texas

Habitat

Sandy soils in hummocks, the coastal plain and pinelands[
229
Title
The Complete Trees of N. America. Field Guide and Natural History.
Publication
 
Author
Elias. T.
Publisher
Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
Year
1980
ISBN
0442238622
Description
A very good concise guide. Gives habitats, good descriptions, maps showing distribution and a few of the uses. It also includes the many shrubs that occasionally reach tree proportions.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitShrub
Height1.00 m
PollinatorsBirds, Insects
Self-fertileYes
Cultivation StatusOrnamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

Erythrina herbacea is not very cold hardy, being able to tolerate occasional, short-lived temperatures down to about -10°c provided the stem bases are thickly mulched with organic matter such as leaf litter or sawdust and covered with bracken[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Top growth will be killed by the cold, but the plant should resprout again from the base in spring and flower in late summer[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Alternatively, the roots can be lifted in the autumn and stored in a cool frost-free place, replanting in the spring.
Requires a moderately fertile well-drained soil in a very sunny position[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Best if grown in a sunny position with the protection of a wall behind it[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Plants take 3 - 4 years to flower from seed[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

Edible Uses

Flowers - cooked. An acceptable vegetable when boiled[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Young leaves - occasionally cooked and eaten[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
].

Medicinal

The plant is narcotic and purgative[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

The root is diaphoretic[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
], and is used to lower fevers[
61
Title
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Publication
 
Author
Usher. G.
Publisher
Constable
Year
1974
ISBN
0094579202
Description
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
]. A cold infusion of the root has been used to treat bowel pain in women[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].
A decoction of the roots or berries has been used to treat nausea, constipation and blocked urination[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

A decoction of the 'beans' or inner bark has been used as a body rub and steam for numb, painful limbs and joints[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

A decoction of the leaves has been used as a general tonic[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

Most Erythrina species are very easy to grow from cuttings, with even quite large branches striking well. In addition, they generally fix atmospheric nitrogen, have nutrient-rich leaves that make an excellent soil-enriching mulch, often have open crowns that do not overly restrict light, and are also often quite thorny and can provide impenetrable barriers to protect from unwelcome intrusions. Many species are therefore used as living fences to provide boundaries and livestock-proof hedges[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
,
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Other Uses

The brilliant red seeds are used as beads[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
].

Propagation

Seed - pre-soak for 12 hours in warm water and sow spring in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, mid summer in a frame[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Overwinter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring or early summer.
Heeled cuttings of young growth in the spring in a frame[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Overwinter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring or early summer.
Cite as: Temperate Plants Database, Ken Fern. temperate.theferns.info. 2018-08-22. <temperate.theferns.info/plant/Erythrina+herbacea>

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